Eliminating cervical cancer in Canada

HPV self-screening is enabling choice

As of January 2024, British Columbia launched Canada’s first HPV self-screening program for cervical cancer and, at least six additional provinces and one territory are planning to implement HPV self-screening. Self-screening can improve access for people who may not have previously participated in screening because it:

  • allows people to easily and safely collect their own sample at a time and place of their choosing;
  • brings care closer to home and supports culturally safer cervical screening;
  • supports access to screening for those without a regular healthcare provider and increased comfort for people with a history of trauma.1,2,3,4

Hear from Natasha Lam, Patient and Family advisor, how HPV self-screening can bring Canada closer to eliminating cervical cancer.

Self-screening in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities

First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada have called on provinces and territories to consider self-screening in their plans for HPV primary screening—to enable culturally safe access to cervical screening within communities and as a key strategy toward reconciliation.

It’s important to remember that many First Nations communities may not be attending care due to past and ongoing traumas as well as racism in the healthcare system. Healthcare providers and systems need to offer trauma-informed, culturally safe care to ensure people feel safe and comfortable to participate in screening.

Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Women’s Health Medical Officer, First Nations Health Authority

Story of progress

Supporting access to culturally safe care by putting screening into the hands of Métis people with HPV self-screening

In 2020–2021, Métis Nation BC, in collaboration with University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia and BC Cancer, launched an at-home HPV self-screening pilot enabling people to collect their own samples in a comfortable setting and at a time they choose.5 Participants either requested an at-home self-screening kit or completed a self-screening kit in-person. Early results showed more than one-third of participants had not previously participated in cervical screening in five or more years, and more than 10% of participants had never been screened before the pilot. Significant relationship building, which focused on community needs and experiences with screening, was critical to the success of this project. Building on the learnings from this pilot, in January 2024, British Columbia launched Canada’s first HPV self-screening program for cervical cancer.

  1. Delpero E, Selk A. Shifting from cytology to HPV testing for cervical cancer screening in Canada. CMAJ. 2022 May 2;194(17):E613-E615. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.211568.
  2. Vahabi M, Lofters A. HPV self-sampling: a promising approach to reduce cervical cancer screening disparities in Canada. Current Oncology. 2018;25(1):13-18.
  3. Bukowska-Durawa A, Luszczynska A. Cervical cancer screening and psychosocial barriers perceived by patients. A systematic review. Contemp Oncol (Pozn). 2014;18(3):153–15959.
  4. Cerigo H, Macdonald ME, Franco EL, Brassard P. HPV detection by self-sampling in Nunavik, Quebec: Inuit women’s sampling method preferences. International Journal of Indigenous Health. 2013;8(1):29-39.
  5. BC Cancer. Cervix self-screening pilot project: frequently asked questions [Internet]. BC Cancer; 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from: http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/screening/Documents/cervix-self-screening-provider-guide.pdf.